Making a difference one dream at a time, Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal is an all-volunteer nonprofit working to provide Clark County women and girls with access to education and training needed to achieve economic empowerment. Educational scholarships are awarded annually per an application process that opens every fall for eligible candidates. Applications are available on the club’s website.
“We are considered one of the best kept secrets in Clark County,” says Jacilyn Margeson, president of Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal. “One of the things we are trying to do is raise greater awareness for the club.”
For more than 50 years, Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal has provided financial assistance to women and girls. “In 2020, we awarded more than $35,000 to seven women,” says Margeson. “Our club has two awards. One is the Live Your Dream Award, developed by our federation, and the other, is our club’s own award, made possible by generous donations from our members.”
Soroptimist is coined from two latin words: Soro (sister) and optima (best/highest good). Hence, Soroptimist means “Best for Women.” Founded in 1948, Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal is part of the global Soroptimist International of the Americas, with nearly 80,000 club members in about 120 countries and territories. Club members contribute time and financial support to community-based projects designed to benefit women and girls.
“We are celebrating our 100th anniversary,” shares Margeson spiritedly of the 1921 founding of the organization. “And we just added a fifth federation – Africa – so we are growing.”
Money That Makes a Real Difference
Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal will offer up to $5,000 to its award recipients. One of the recipients will then advance to the Soroptimist Northwest Region level where recipients could receive up to an additional $5,000. Advancement to the regional level for further consideration is only for the Live Your Dream Award recipients. The program culminates with an additional $10,000 for three nationwide finalists selected from the regional award recipients. Nationwide, the Live Your Dream Award provides over $2.5 million in cash awards annually.
“Our own club awardees do not go to the region for further consideration,” explains Margeson. “It is our club award. We set the criteria, and we set the factors. It is truly a Camas-Washougal award.”
The Live Your Dream Award is for women who are head of household and serve as the primary wage earners for their family. “You don’t necessarily have to have children, but you must be caring for somebody that is dependent financially on you for health and wellbeing,” shares Margeson. “Our goal is to have two Live Your Dream awardees a year.”
Live Your Dream Award recipients can use the financial assistance to offset costs associated with their efforts to attain higher education or additional skills and training. The cost offset is not limited to books and tuition. The money may also be directed toward other education-related expenses such as childcare or bus fare.
Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal’s own club/endowment award is for women and girls motivated to pursue their educational goals but who still need financial assistance to turn those goals into a reality. Just like the Live Your Dream Award, endowment awardees may also use the money to offset costs associated with their education costs. This includes additional skills, training, books, tuition, or any other education-relevant expense. Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal has given more than $15,000 a year to endowment recipients over the past 10 years.
“Awards go to women who have a financial need and who have also demonstrated resiliency, courage, motivation, and the ability to overcome obstacles,” says Margeson of some of the criteria for eligible candidates. “The heart strings are pretty strong in the selection process.”
The club further improves the lives of women through Soroptimist Dream It, Be It events and works with local organizations to get women legal and economic resources to break free from domestic violence and sex trafficking. They also provide hygiene, food, and other products to Children’s Home Society of Washington in Washougal and Family Promise of Clark County in Camas. Relay for Life, Babies in Need, Vida’s Ark, Camas Community Youth Programs, and Breast Cancer Awareness Programs are among many other support efforts by this heart-led nonprofit.
“There is so much more to education than our awards,” shares Margeson. “We are now funding GED’s and partnering with Family Promise of Clark County, an organization dealing with homelessness.”
According to a study conducted by The Fels Institute of Government, providing women and girls access to education improves quality of life, builds self-confidence, strengthens self-determination, and inspires the desire to pay it forward by helping others. Helping women and girls live their dreams, reach their goals, and achieve economic empowerment is leading to stronger nations and communities around the world.
To learn more, become a member, donate, or find applications for financial assistance and accompanying deadlines, visit the Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal website. You may also call Jacilyn Margeson at 360.607.3854 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.